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Telescope Operations Restored After Cybersecurity Incident at NSF’s NOIRLab

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Gemini North and Gemini South are taking science data

Gemini North and Gemini South telescopes (the twin telescopes forming the International Gemini Observatory) are now back on sky following the 1 August cybersecurity incident at NSF’s NOIRLab, and are currently collecting science data. Restoration of remote access for external astronomers is ongoing, and we anticipate that it will be restored over the coming weeks. 

The observations at Gemini South involved the instrument Flamingos-2 and those at Gemini North involved GMOS, GNIRS and NIRI.

The Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope on Cerro Tololo and SOAR Telescope on Cerro Pachón in Chile continue to take science data in restricted operating modes. Full operations, including remote access, are expected to be restored once all cybersecurity conditions are met. Other telescopes are operational with onsite observers, and most smaller telescope facilities have been restored to normal operations. The telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory were not affected by the incident.

As previously posted, the cybersecurity incident resulted in the suspension of astronomical observations at Gemini North in Hawai‘i. The Gemini South telescope was in a planned shutdown for engineering work at that time. The quick response by NOIRLab cybersecurity and observing teams prevented damage to the observatory, and both telescopes were closed pending a resolution. As a precaution the Mid-Scale Observatories network on Cerro Tololo and at SOAR was disconnected and a temporary workaround was put in place to allow for on-site staff observations in service mode. This disconnection also affected those tenant facilities on Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón which operate remotely. 

The NOIRLab IT team immediately started an investigation and developed a recovery plan in consultation with cybersecurity specialists.

I am grateful for the outstanding effort of our IT team in restoring operations. It was a herculean task that tested the stamina of all involved,” said NOIRLab Director Patrick McCarthy. “Many science and operations staff also went above and beyond during this challenging period to make sure the telescopes at Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón kept collecting data with minimal interruption.

“It is a testament to the professionalism and dedication of the IT team that systems have been restored systematically and robustly,” said Chris Morrison, NOIRLab Head of IT Operations. 

We are grateful for the support of the astronomy community during this difficult time and we thank everyone for their patience. 

More information 

NSF’s NOIRLab (National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory), the US center for ground-based optical-infrared astronomy, operates the International Gemini Observatory (a facility of NSF, NRC–Canada, ANID–Chile, MCTIC–Brazil, MINCyT–Argentina, and KASI–Republic of Korea), Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC), and Vera C. Rubin Observatory (operated in cooperation with the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory). It is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with NSF and is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. The astronomical community is honored to have the opportunity to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du’ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, on Maunakea in Hawai‘i, and on Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile. We recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that these sites have to the Tohono O’odham Nation, to the Native Hawaiian community, and to the local communities in Chile, respectively.



Amanda Kocz
Communications Manager
Tel: +1 520 318 8591

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Telescope Operations Restored After Cybersecurity Incident at NSF’s NOIRLab | Gemini Observatory


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